Smart tech use and attitudes in north-west NSW

7 APRIL 2022

Smart tech use and attitudes in north-west NSW

A research report about what regional and rural consumers in north-west NSW understand about ‘smart technology’ was launched at Charles Sturt University in Dubbo today.

  • Research report examines smart tech use and consumer rights in five regional and rural communities in north-west NSW - Dubbo, Narromine, Wellington, Peak Hill, and Gilgandra
  • Research and policy tend to focus on smart technology in cities, whereas this report focuses on smart tech in rural and regional areas
  • Regional and rural consumers want ‘practical confidence’ and technologies that ‘just work’ and ‘do their job’, with practical applications for regions and rural areas

A research report about what regional and rural consumers in north-west NSW understand about ‘smart technology’ was launched at Charles Sturt University in Dubbo today.

The research conducted in 2021 included more than 130 participants, six case studies, Local Aboriginal Land Councils and focuses on the communities of Dubbo, Narromine, Wellington, Peak Hill, and Gilgandra.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) funded the research project and the report ‘It Just Works!’: Regional and Rural Consumer Understanding of Smart Technologies in North-West New South Wales.

Researcher and report co-author Senior Lecturer Dr Holly Randell-Moon (pictured, inset) in the Charles Sturt School of Indigenous Australian Studies in Dubbo researches community engagement with digital infrastructure and what this means for First Nations regional development.

Dr Randell-Moon said this report provides information on consumer rights in relation to smart technologies in regional and rural north-west New South Wales and is one of the few studies to examine this consumer base.

“Have you used a smart app like the COVIDSafe app or had a smart water meter installed on your property?” Dr Randell-Moon asks.

“Who owns your data? You? The government? The manufacturer of the app?

“Research and policy tend to focus on smart technology in cities, whereas this report puts the focus on smart tech in rural and regional areas.”

The project identified key themes and issues regarding regional and rural consumer understandings and use of smart technologies:

Polarisation in perceptions of telecommunications quality

Participants either assess quality as ‘pretty good actually’ or ‘ordinary’.

Quality telecommunications are essential for quality smart tech use.

Smart tech literacy

There is high awareness of smart technologies and applications, but relatively little use.

Demonstrated benefit is needed to aid take-up due to perceptions that the benefits of smart technologies and applications will become apparent when used.

Smart tech champions

The use and development of technologies and applications for planning, business, and consumption should be championed by selected individuals in the five rural town areas.

E-waste (electronic waste) considerations

If regions are to become ‘smart’, how can shire councils develop plans to manage the increase in smart technologies and devices, and consequently their waste and end-of-life disposal?

Inclusivity

Local Aboriginal Land Councils are key stakeholders in planning and development in the region, including for smart regions and rural areas.

This project included relatively few respondents with a migrant background, older people (70+ years old), and people living with a disability.

These communities will grow in the years ahead in regional and rural areas and they are important stakeholders in smart cities and regional community planning.

Consumer rights

There is confusion regarding consumer rights in relation to smart technologies and applications (apps). This was evident in the project data specifically in relation to data ownership, remote data monitoring, and who to go to for advice regarding smart tech.

Recommendations include:

Further information should be provided to rural and regional communities promoting consumer rights regarding smart technologies and applications and clarifying the role of local government councils in relation to these rights.

Further opportunities should be found for all community stakeholders to trial the use of smart technologies and applications to increase familiarity and trust of the technology.

Local councils should develop opportunities for identified smart technology champions to promote smart tech benefits among the community.

Local councils and other stakeholders in smart development should identify the opportunities from engagement with Local Aboriginal Land Councils and First Nations in the development of smart regions.

A key aim of the project was to develop a regional definition of smart technologies and applications. Based on the project data, this definition is ‘practical confidence’. Regional and rural consumers want technologies that ‘just work’ and ‘do their job’, with practical applications for regions and rural areas.

See more information about the project and the results.

The report was launched at the Dubbo campus of Charles Sturt University at 3pm on Thursday 7 April by Ms Fiona Nash.

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Holly Randell-Moon contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via news@csu.edu.au

The report ‘It Just Works!’: Regional and Rural Consumer Understanding of Smart Technologies in North-West New South Wales (2021) is by Dr Holly Randell-Moon and Ms Danielle Hynes from the University of NSW.

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Indigenous Society and Community Technology